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We spend a lot of time helping leaders learn what to do, we don’t spend enough time helping leaders learn what to stop.” Peter Drucker

Sometimes we need to say nothing, be quiet and accept people as they are and the situation we find ourselves in, as it is, choosing to be grateful for our experiences instead of whining and complaining, being kind instead of cruel.  

 

This conversation is about kindness, how being kind simply because we enjoy it changes everything.  So, let’s look at four habits that hold us back, none of which are kind.

#1 Adding Too Much Value

 

I remember as a young bride, my husband loved to cook and would often make these amazing casseroles for dinner. I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of this gift. I mentioned several times a few things he could add to his creations, items to make a dish ‘better', and he just stopped making dinner. I was an idiot, and certainly not kind.

 

My guess is that you, too, have learned from the school of  "Yikes! I should have kept my mouth shut!"

 

It can happen at work.  What if someone comes to you with a great idea; it really shines. Do you say, “That’s a great idea! Thank you!”  Or, do you need to ‘make it better’ - “I love your idea but add this to it.”

 

When you add value to a great idea, it may be a little bit better, but it won’t be executed with the same passion and enthusiasm; you’ve just hijacked it and shifted the focus from how smart they are to how smart you are.

 

Praising and supporting a great idea is kind; adding value in this instance, not so much.

 

 

#2 Winning Too Much

What about winning or 'I know best!'

 

What if you and a colleague make plans for lunch. He wants to go to Max’s Steak House and you want Brasserie Ten Ten. You go to the steak house.  The steak is not tasty, and the service is slow. What do you do?  Do you complain and say, “I told you so!”  Do you say nothing, but repeatedly check your cell phone and scowl at your food?  You might as well be wearing a neon sign saying, “You should have listened to me!”

 

Do you or could you bring yourself to say nothing and simply enjoy your colleague’s company, making the best possible use of your time together?  That’s kind.

 

You gain nothing by being right. I’ve learned that one that hard way too!

 

 

#3 Too Competitive

Are you too competitive?  You’ve had a miserable day at work, but as soon as you walk in the door your husband starts telling you about his stressful, upsetting day.  What do you do?

 

Do you say, “You've had a hard day, that’s nothing compared to what happened to me.”   Then tell him everything that’s gone wrong for you?  Do you say nothing and just let him vent, give him some TLC and attention, really listen and just be there?

 

How many times have you shared bad news with a friend only to have them share bad news with you?  I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been slammed with something I just need someone to listen, really listen; not try to fix me; not try to fix the situation; just listen.  That’s kindness in action.

 

 

#4 Passing Judgment

We can all be stubborn, opinionated and judgmental.  Or, we can help more and judge less, the kind alternative.  How? By eliminating three words from our vocabulary:  no, but and however.

 

Saying ‘No’ at the beginning of sentence means ‘you are wrong’. 

No, there’s too much about this situation to consider.

 

‘But’ and ‘however’ mean to disregard everything that came before this word. 

I really love your idea, but we’re dealing with a crisis right now. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, however I've got to take care of the Barkley matter.

 

It’s not as easy to stop saying no, but and however as you may think.  One of my friends had to appoint ‘word police’ to keep her honest - friends, family and co-workers.  Every time she said no, but or however, she put $20 in an envelope. Saying no, no, no was an expensive moment!

She donated the money to charity at the end of each week, a nice touch.  And, she did improve, fairly rapidly; It was really interesting to watch her progress.

It's so easy for words like no, but and however to become background noise; we really don't really hear ourselves; they don't consciously register.

 

Wrapping it up

It takes time to replace old habits with new ones. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your progress along the way.

And here’s one caveat:  there are no hard and fast rules. Use your discernment in the moment. The idea is to get you thinking; it’s up to you to decide what’s kind in any given moment.

Would you like to upgrade your leadership style to more real, effective and authentic?

 

First, don't pretend to be anyone else.  Be yourself and embody the qualities that resonate with you, like compassion, clarity and calm assurance, and work with these three vital keys to your success. . .

Key #1: Look to leaders that you admire.

Find leaders that you admire and ponder:

  • What traits do they have?
  • How do they interact with a team and work under pressure?
  • What about them engenders the respect and admiration of others?

What you are doing is standing on the shoulders of leaders who have walked before you, leaders that you would like to be more like with your own unique flair.

 

Ideally, find a mentor.  Ask a leader that you admire, someone in your field of expertise. to help you become the leader you aspire to be, especially now that you are clear about the qualities you are choosing to embody.  And, as you look around and find a leader to guide you, remember that the leadership skills that you most admire in others are already inside of you, otherwise, you would not recognize them!

 

What you are doing is gaining the confidence to apply those skills.  So, be humble. Be in learning mode, open to all possibilities and open to constructive feedback.  Apply what you learn, what is shared with you in your day-to-day life. Make it real on the ground.

Having a mentor (or even two) can be a game changer; so summon the courage within and ask for guidance.

 

Key #2: Stop putting yourself first.

Leadership is about service, inspiring others to do and be their best.  So, while you take care of yourself, develop and nurture yourself as a leader, share the best of yourself with others - especially those under your guidance and care.

 

Pay attention and review at the end of every day how you are doing. Ask yourself, “Am I inspiring the people around me to dream, learn, do and be more?”  If not, what are you going to do differently? And even if the answer is ‘yes’, there is always a better way.   So, ask yourself, “How could I do things differently? How can I improve?”

 

Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler were two great leaders, one for the good of humanity and the other not, and they had very different leadership styles.  Anyone who spent time with Churchill felt that they could do anything.  Anyone who spent time with Hitler, felt that he could do anything. 

 

A great leader, which is what we are or are aspiring to be, inspires and instills hope.  And, leadership is a balancing act, knowing when to listen and support and when to act and require action.  As a leader, you are often the deciding voice, the decision maker. Instead of focusing on your authority, focus on being of service.  Focus on serving not only your clients and customers, but the people that work under your command, the people you owe a duty of care.

 

Hold the bar high. Give your people the support, training, encouragement, mentorship and resources they need to succeed. 

Put your ego aside and focus on their needs. Their success is your success.   It’s not about you; it’s about your people, your team, the people and groups that make your success possible.

 

Key #3: Find the right balance between personal and professional.

Get to know your people, and set clear and appropriate boundaries, guidelines and goals.  

If you want your people, your team to be successful, to have great results, they must know exactly what is expected of them; what to do, for whom and by when.  Give them all of the details and on-going mentoring, guidance, encouragement and support so that they will succeed. Don’t dictate and disappear.

 

Lead from a space of calm assurance. Don’t be a drama queen or dump on them. Don’t bring your personal life, your concerns about family, friends, health or finances, into the office; it’s draining and potentially toxic.  Be kind, supportive and professional.

 

Know that you are always evolving as leader, that the guidance is coming from inside of you as you follow your intuition and adopt a way of communicating and leading that feels natural and comfortable for you.  Leadership style is not a hat that you take on and off.  It's how you act and how you are all the time.

 

People may still have their opinions about you, calling you bossy or other names. These labels say a lot more about them than you.  You can’t please everyone. It’s a recipe for disaster to base your style on the opinions of others.

 

Sometimes rocking the boat and making waves means that you are doing a great job.  Being authentic is always better than being anything else.   Being true to yourself and working in service of other is what authentic leadership is all about, and this leads to genuine, lasting success.

            

Effective delegating is crucial to your success.  As your business grows or as responsibilities increase, you can’t do everything you have been doing and be successful.  Mundane, repetitive tasks will hold you back. Handling projects that others could do just as effectively or better is a waste of your time and resources.

 

You probably know this, so what's stopping you from delegating?

 

Maybe you don't trust your people to do the job as good as you do.  Maybe you're afraid they will just create a mess for you clean up or won't get everything done on time. All valid concerns.  So where to from here?

 

Here are four simple steps to get you going and delegating like a superhero!

 

Step 1: Get out of the Way.

Don’t make delegation about you.  Delegating does not mean that you are losing control or that you can’t handle something. Delegating means that you know how to get more done by utilizing the resources you have at hand – your people, division or team.

Step 2: Help Your People Succeed:

Don’t withhold information.  Be direct, clear and precise.  Talk to them.  Give them written instructions that are easy to follow. Tell them what, when and how each step or task much be completed, what milestones must be met and by when, what needs to be on your desk for review and when, what skills are needed, what resources are available to get the job done.

 

Put yourself in their shoes.  Make sure that you provide what they need to really shine.

 

Step 3: Stay in Touch.

Don’t disappear after delegating. Check in regularly.  Make sure that your people feel safe to bring any question, problem or concern to you, that there are no ‘stupid questions’.

 

You are there to catch small problems before they become big ones.  Remember what it was like to be in their shoes; be respectful, engaging and supportive.  Be patient and encouraging, and maintain appropriate boundaries.  It’s not okay to drop the job back in your lap if difficulties arise or obstacles occur.

 

Step 4: Maintain & Build Trust.

Don’t take a task back once it’s been delegated. That undermines confidence and can make you look power hungry and possessive, a micromanager.

 

Give your people the chance to do the job.  Just like you, they need to be mentored and groomed for success; it's about you embracing this kind of high-level leadership, and in so doing, success is assured.

 

Your people's success begets more success. Their success if your success.

Whether you are the head of a division, are an officer or run your own company . . . being a good leader is probably important to you.

 

Leadership is so much more than regular performance evaluations and making sure that projects are completed on time. It’s about getting to know and fully utilizing the strengths, talents, gifts and skills of the people under your charge and care.

 

Yes, the team’s success is your success. But, it’s no longer just about you, it’s a ‘we’ thing, something you create together. Team members can raise each other up and be so much more together than they could be working alone.

 

And one bad apple can spoil the bunch. So,

  • How do you raise your team up?
  • How do you inspire and motivate them to be and do their best?
  • How do you help them to work together in harmony and unity?

Key 1: It’s not about you!

First, get out of the way and focus on your team.  Pulling together a great team is like learning to pay the guitar. At first it takes a lot of time, hours of practice. It’s always on your mind; you think, visualize and dream about playing the guitar until it becomes a part of who you are.  So it is with your team, it takes time, energy, focus and attention to get it running smoothly and to keep it going after that.

Key 2: Capitalize on untapped strengths and abilities

You must discover each person’s strengths, talents, gifts and skills so you can put them to good use.  How do you do this? Keep it simple. Ask open-ended questions and be genuinely curious. Be fully present and really listen to and take in what they share, noticing what they don’t say, as well.

 

You can send out a questionnaire and then meet with each person to talk about what they’ve shared. If you are don’t have the time or feel that a neutral professional, like a coach, would work better then hire one.

 

You can ask them questions:

  • What skills or abilities do you have that could help the team?
  • What are you really good at or love to do that we are not taking advantage of?
  • What responsibilities do you like the least? Which ones do you enjoy the most?
  • What do you need to succeed that you’re not getting?

 

Then what? If some people could use a mentor, match them with one. If some people need further training, get it for them, if possible. If some changes need to happen within the team, collaborate with your team members and make it so.

Key 3: Be Available & Hold People Accountable.

Be available. That’s what your people need, not endless meetings with lots of questions to answer.  Get to know your people. Don’t smother or micro-manage them. Just treat everyone with dignity and respect; appreciate and be grateful for what everyone brings to the mix.

 

Hold you team collectively and individually accountable. You can do this by being a responsible, dependable, trustworthy leader.

 

Your people need to know that if they make a mistake, they can come to you to find a solution.  Support them. Don’t expect or demand perfection. Give them room to be creative, to bring their inspiration and uniqueness to the group, making sure they feel safe to speak up.

 

Remember to be adaptable.  Change is constant and inevitable. Be humble.  Know your strengths, don’t flaunt them.  Know your weakness and work on raising them up. 

 

Be willing to learn and grow from others; that makes you accessible, real and accountable, someone people like to be around.

There’s a lot of wisdom in Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last.  Simon talks about how in the military, officers feed their troups first and always eat last.

 

This may seem counter intuitive, but it's not! Officers honor their responsibility to those who serve under them by taking care of their needs first, and we can learn a lot from them.  When we take care of our employees or team or division first, they take care of the people important to us, our clients and customers.

 

One way to do this is to give everyone a voice, an opportunity to be appreciated and heard.  Imagine your next meeting  where you spoke last, no one knowing your views on the subject of the meeting, no thoughts or comments shared after each person speaks, no nodding your head in approval or disapproval.

 

Could you do this? What would happen if you did?  My challenge is to give it go.  If you really want your people to energized, enthusiastic and willing to give their best to succeed.

 

 

Can this be challenging? Yes.  For me, it felt like skiing down a mountain for the first time as a young adult.  I had just moved to Colorado and "You want me to point the tips of my skis down the mountain?  Are you crazy?"

 

 

Even if what I share goes counter to everything inside of you, pretend you have a pen in your mouth and cannot speak and watch the magic unfold. Each meeting could get better and better as your people learn the new 'rules' and feel more and more comfortable contributing.

 

 

Want specifics? Here's a step-by-step guide to running your next meeting

 

Circulate a memo outlining the purpose of the meeting and what will be discussed. State the facts. Be straight forward, clear and succinct. Don’t share any of your thoughts or feelings on the matter with anyone!

 

  • Schedule the meeting a few days later, setting time limits and parameters for the meeting.
  • Start the meeting by succinctly presenting the topic and welcome all discussion, all comments, ideas, innovations, concerns and thoughts.
  • Allow everyone to speak.
  • If someone doesn’t volunteer, ask for their input.
  • Make sure that no one monopolizes the conversation.
  • Have clear boundaries and let everyone know in advance that this is a group effort, and that everyone will have equal time to participate.
  • Set time limits if necessary if monopolizers or know-it-alls are in the room.
  • Keep people on topic. If someone wanders off, thank them and let them know that this topic is for another meeting.
  • Thank everyone after they have shared. No feedback, verbal or non-verbal. Simply, “Thank. you, Frank. Julie, what are your thoughts on the matter?”
  • Be genuinely curious. Ask open ended questions:  Tell me more about that?” “What do you mean when you say…..” “Thanks for sharing, Indra. I’m curious how that would affect…..” “Joe, do you have any thoughts about that?”
  • Keep the meeting flowing and moving forward. Specifically asking different people in the room for their input or comments based upon what someone else has shared can be a great way to be inclusive.
  • Wrapping up the meeting after everyone has shared, go around the room as ask each person for their ‘take away’. "Jennifer, what's your take away for today's meeting?"  Or, just ask a few key people if that's not possible because of time constraints.
  • Thank everyone for their input. Then briefly share your thoughts and feelings on the matter. Your vision. How you see things, giving yourself permission to change what you are going to say based on the great ideas and comments you have heard!
  • Close the meeting by either making a decision or letting everyone know that you will ponder all that has been shared and get back to them shortly.

 

The bottom line is to come to the meeting open to what everyone has to share as if you know nothing; open to all possibilities. The youngest, most inexperienced person there could be the one to offer the best idea.  And, in so doing you build openness; your people feel heard. They are a part of the decision-making process! And that builds trust and buy in to what you ultimately decide.

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